Geoffrey Rush

Active - 1981 - 2020  |   Born - Jul 6, 1951 in Toowoomba, Queensland, Australia  |   Genres - Drama, Comedy, Comedy Drama, Fantasy, Adventure

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Biography by Rebecca Flint Marx

One of Australia's most popular and distinguished actors, Geoffrey Rush came to the attention of the international community in 1996 with his performance as pianist David Helfgott in Shine (1996). Rush won an Academy Award for Best Actor, Golden Globe, and Australian Film Institute Award for his work, and he subsequently began appearing in films that would further make him known to audiences all over the world.

A Queensland native, Rush was born in Toowoomba on July 6, 1951. After taking an arts degree from the University of Queensland, he began his theater career at Brisbane's Queensland Theatre Company. In addition to honing his skills with the classics, Rush lived in Paris for two years, where he studied pantomime at the Jacques Lecoq School of Mime. After returning to Australia, the actor resumed his stage work, at one point co-starring in Waiting for Godot with former roommate Mel Gibson. He spent much of the early '80s as part of director Jim Sharman's Lighthouse troupe and he also began working in film; his debut came in the 1981 Hoodwink, which also featured a young Judy Davis. Rush continued to appear in Australian films and on the stage, directing a number of theatrical productions in addition to acting in them. His big international break came in the form of the aforementioned Shine; following the adulation surrounding his performance as the unbalanced piano prodigy, Rush began to garner substantial roles in a number of high-profile projects. First was Gillian Armstrong's Oscar and Lucinda (1997), in which he played Oscar's great-grandson. The following year the actor drew raves for his work in Elizabeth, which featured him as the Queen's casually sinister confidant, and Shakespeare in Love, for which he again donned tights, this time to play a debt-ridden theater owner. His work in that film scored him his second Oscar nomination, this time for Best Supporting Actor. The same year, he could also be seen as the dastardly Inspector Javert in Bille August's adaptation of Les Miserables.

In 1999, Rush exchanged the past for the future with Mystery Men. Starring as the dastardly Casanova Frankenstein, he shared the screen with an unlikely assortment of actors, including Greg Kinnear, Janeane Garofalo, Ben Stiller, and Paul Reubens. The same year, he starred as an eccentric millionaire who invites a few guests (including Bridgette Wilson, Taye Diggs, and Peter Gallagher) over for some tea and terror in the remake of William Castle's 1958 classic The House on Haunted Hill.

At this point audiences in the know were indeed well aware of Rush's versitility, and any actor able to move from the campy, big budget B-horror to the Oscar nominated art-house antics of Phil Kaufman's Quills had little need to prove himself to either critics or audiences. Though he may not have taken home the trophy at the 2001 Academy Awards, his performance as the Marquis de Sade in the Kaufman film drew praise from nearly every corner of the critical spectrum and Rush was now recognized as one of the premier talents of his generation. Whether appearing in such deadly serious independent drama as Frida or wide release cotton candy as The Banger Sisters, Rush was never anything less than fascinating to watch and his enthusiasm for his craft always managed to shine through into his performances. Though the film wasn't seen by the majority of stateside audiences, 2003's Swimming Upstream offered Rush in a meorable turn as the distant father of Australian swimmer Tony Figleton. After taking on one of Austrailia's most notorious outlaws in the 2003 drama Ned Kelley and offering vocal work for the popular Pixar family adventure Finding Nemo, Rush remained on this high seas - this time mostly above water - as the leader of an undead crew of pirates in the 2003 swashbuckler Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. Though his menacing performance may have been slightly overshadowed by the flamboyant antics of co-star Johnny Depp, Rush nevertheless managed to craft one of the most complex and rousing villians in recent screen history. Next turning up as the hapless victim of a gold-digging maneater in the Coen Brothers' Intolerable Cruelty, Rush soon began preparation for his role as none other than the immortal Inspector Clouseau in the made-for-television biography The Life and Death of Peter Sellers. Rush played the Mossad representative who acts as the contact for the group of avenging agents in Steven Spielberg's outstanding Munich. Then he returned to the biggest hit of his career, reprising his part as a pirate in the next two Pirates of the Carribean films. He also agreed to reteam with director Shekhar Kapur and co-star Cate Blanchett for the sequel to Elizabeth reprising his role as Sir Francis Walsingham.

As anticipated, the 2006 Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest opened to spectacular box office and solid (if not exemplary) reviews, though few of the critics who praised the film actually singled out Rush's fine performance in it as Barbossa (doubtless blinded by the impressive torrent of special effects and the squishy villainry of Bill Nighy that took center stage). Rush also joined the cast of that same year's Candy. Not to be mistaken for the awful Christian Marquand picture of the same title (or a remake thereof), the film actually constitutes a finely-tuned gut-wrencher about the heroin addictions of a poet and art student who become romantically entwined and decide to wed. Rush plays the ultra-liberal professor who first encourages the heroin use as experimentation, but later acknowledges the couple's inseparable, volatile bond to one another other via shared use of the substance. The picture stars Abbie Cornish and Heath Ledger as the marrieds.

THINKFilm scheduled Candy for release in October 2006 as Shekhar Kapur directed Rush in The Golden Age - the Elizabeth sequel for Universal and Working Title - which the studios slated for an October 2007 premiere. Meanwhile, the actor also lent a great deal of his time to shooting the third Pirates installment, also debuting in 2007. 2010 would prove a banner year for Rush, as he was nominated for an Academy Award for his performance as a speech therapist in The King's Speech, and the winner of the Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor for the same film. In 2011, Rush reprised his Pirates role once again for Pirates of the Carribean: On Stranger Tides.

Rush married Shakespearean stage actress Jane Menelaus in 1988, with whom he has two children - Angelica and James. The couple resides in Melbourne. He is actively involved with environmental causes.

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  • Gained prominence on stage in 1972 as Snoopy in the musical You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown.
  • Lived in Paris from 1975 to '77 and attended the Jacques Lecoq School of Mime, Movement and Theater.
  • Shared an apartment with Mel Gibson in 1979 while appearing on stage with him in a Sydney production of Waiting for Godot.
  • Suffered a nervous breakdown in 1992 which he claims provided the insight for his Oscar-winning performance in Shine.
  • Actively involved in Melbourne community groups and regularly turns down high-paying parts in Hollywood in favor of directing and performing on stage in Australia.
  • Earned his first executive-producer credit for The King's Speech, which he helped develop into a film after the work was first presented to him as a stage play.